Written by Guest Writer Erik van Rheenen
Cover art adorned with a cloaked Grim Reaper perched atop a skull-and-crossbones blindfolded by the band’s name scrawled in spindly crimson script – Set Your Goals may seem like they’re trying for a “We’re more brutal than you,” image. Who knew one of the albums in the forefront of the 2009 pop-punk resurgence would be masquerading as a hardcore album? This Will Be the Death of Us defies the sophomore slump jinx by finding the right balance of hardcore mentality and pop-punk sensibility while maintaining a cohesive flow throughout twelve tracks of sheer adrenaline.
The title track leads off with a drawn-out guitar squeal and blistering drums, though vocalist Matt Wilson doesn’t get the blood pumping until he teams up with Vinnie Caruana of I Am The Avalanche. Spoken word interlude, “With Hoffman Lenses We Will See the Truth,” segues nicely into “Look Closer,” the closest the band gets to the brink of bubblegum pop-punk, save for the rampant gang shouts and tenacious electric guitar riffs. “Summer Jam” is a bona fide feel-good, throw-your-hands-in-the-air anthem that reminisces on the band’s early days and is a surefire crowd pleaser.
From there the album hits its stride at an all-out sprint. “Like You to Me” features soaring rapid-fire call and response vocals from Wilson and Jordan Brown, who provides a nice contrast to Wilson’s tone, an uplifting jam that rollicks into “The Fallen…”, a track that builds up into a raucous, group vocal bridge and breaks back down to take the rousing chorus for one more spin.
“The Few That Remain” features scene darling Hayley Williams showing off her pipes as she abruptly interrupts the track with an innocent “Mind if I get in on this?” and promptly breaks into hardcore shouts. When the band implores you to “come on and breakdown,” there is a zero percent chance you will say no.
The album then reaches a hit-or-miss crossroads, where “Equals” feels like it is forcing a hardcore influence on itself and “Flawed Methods of Persecution and Punishment” is about a minute too long and a little too politically charged. The tracks are overshadowed on the back half by heavy-hitting “Gaia Bleeds (Make Way for Man)” and acoustic interlude, “Arrival Notes.” All is right at the end, though, with the 90’s skate-punk throwback “Our Ethos (A Legacy to Pass On.)” New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert jumps in for an angst-ridden guest verse as Set Your Goals takes their stance on the pop-punk scene and defends it with blaring guitar riffs and a don’t-quit attitude.
Although the album title declares that This Will Be the Death of Us, it just marks a rebirth for a genre that needs one. While pop-punk was on life support from a glut of neon-clad bands overrunning the genre, Set Your Goals was the respirator that brought a breath of fresh air.